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Should Indians drive cars? Part 2

Justin Rowlatt | 06:03 UK time, Sunday, 3 January 2010

The climate conference in Copenhagen was a car crash - virtually everyone, including President Obama, seems agreed on that.

So the question for the New Year is how to ensure that the deal is improved on in Mexico - or wherever the next conference will be. Nothing ambitious, then.

First, though, we need to understand why Copenhagen led to such a disappointing agreement.

The answer is perhaps pretty simple. Indeed, the root problem seemed clear when the Ethical Man team went to India two and a half years ago.

I gave our report the rather provocative title Should Indians drive cars?. Our objective was to create an Indian Ethical Man. You can see below whether we succeeded.

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The reason Copenhagen foundered was because most countries refused to set aside their narrow national interests for the long-term future well-being of the entire planet.

Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution, economic development and hence national wealth has been based on the use of fossil fuels. And fossil fuels are still by far the cheapest and easiest form of energy.

What happened at Copenhagen was that most countries chose to try and protect their rights to go on using them.

The conference degenerated into the equivalent of a land-grab - not for territory on Earth, but for atmospheric space and the right to pollute it.

The environmentalist George Monbiot described it as "a scramble for the atmosphere comparable in style and intent to the scramble for Africa". He wrote from Copenhagen:

"Most rich and rapidly developing states have sought through these talks to seize as great a chunk of the atmosphere for themselves as they can - to grab bigger rights to pollute than their competitors. The process couldn't have been better designed to produce the wrong results."

But actually this was always the most likely outcome. This was, after all, a conference of nation states, and nation states exist to promote national interests.

Indeed, the conference was a graphic demonstration of the fact that what is in the best interests of a country is not necessarily in the best interests of the people who live in it.

So how can countries be persuaded to put the world first?

Gordon Brown says the process of negotiation needs to be reformed: "Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down these talks," he said in the wake of the conference. "Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries."

It's a theme that has been taken up by the UN itself. Just before Christmas, Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that there were problems with the process and said he would consider how it could be streamlined.

The danger is that reforming the negotiating process is likely to lead to criticisms that powerful nations are trying use their influence to determine the outcome of the deal.

In the meantime, though, the diplomatic focus is on trying to persuade countries to increase the emissions cuts they have signed up to. Targets on cuts were not included in the Copenhagen accord and must by submitted by the end of this month.

That's when the real scope of the deal in Copenhagen will become clear.

But it is hard to be optimistic. It is rare that nation states put aside national interests for the greater good of the world. Can you think of any examples of when they have? Let's see how long (or short) a list we can come up with in the comments.

I'll chuck in the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone to get things started - undoubtedly a success, but nothing like the scale of what was being attempted at Copenhagen. A prize to anyone who can come up with an international agreement that involved anything like the sacrifice represented by cutting fossil fuel use. BBC guidelines may preclude that prize being a bottle of champagne - if so, I'll award an Ethical Man Award.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    'I gave our report the rather provocative title'

    Nice to see the media are treating the topic of the environment in the twenty-tens in pretty much the same way as it has to date: ratings first, economics/science whenever... the rest can be enhanced to taste in the edit suite. And the heck with standards... we have at least two... and counting.

    Also it might be nice if the BBC and its 'reporters' quoted something in support of its pieces other than the Guardian, and vice versa. Or Gordon Brown - along with the now all pervasive climate rapporteur Prescott somewhat of a late to the table (if he does get invited to the table at all, being a bit of a global pygmy for a world saver) 'green advocate'.

    Meanwhile, on a more agreeable (well, in one way) note:

    'The reason Copenhagen foundered was because most countries refused to set aside their narrow national interests for the long-term future well-being of the entire planet.'

    Tend to agree. Though, well, D'Uh. 'This was, after all, a conference of nation states, and nation states exist to promote national interests.'

    Tricky to divorce political actions as a consequence, especially in democracies. And I'd accord much caution to ongoing confusion and public voting blocs being a tad unsure on where money being talked about to 'solve climate change' (sic) might really be going and with what tangible effect save for potentially re-directed 'green' taxes or compo to buy off some noisy despots more keen on a new Merc than getting a windmill in outlying villages.

    Plus it's hard to get too excited (along with a lot of exciteable types, from pols, to activists to media types) about light bulbs as a 'cure' or car as a curse, when vast swathes (such as population and elements - promising signs around - of deforestation) are simply not being given the heft they deserve... whether through being inconvenient, too hard or not really what some like to talk about in polite company.

    Much better to patronise developing folk with 'why don't you want to stay as you are' guff as contradictory as a Miliband talking about growing economies in one place as another Miliband spouts off in another about gutting GHGs. Sounds good, fills some dead air, but doesn't actually DO very much that helps, does it... save justifying some no income, no solution generating public service salaries (I'd love to know how much in our public sector actually does reduce GHGs, as most seems to at best involve 'raising awareness' of vague means to shunt 'em around, or simply bewailing how awful things are/will be).

    So there's a lot of devilish detail that could and should be read into phrases such as 'narrow interests', 'longer term future' and, especially, 'well-being of entire planet'. A lot that is still being glossed over with sound bites.

    What, on earth (sorry), do those mean? What lies behind them, from consequences of not 'acting' to, equally, those of doing so. Especially when assessing and, more importantly, measuring causes and effects.

    So much in matters environmental are laid out in such absolutist terms, too simplistically or just plain inaccurately to be any use at all to anyone try to weigh issues sensibly.

    If the uniquely-funded (were most in life simply a matter of just 'getting' money to do stuff without worrying too much for what and with what return) BBC and its environmental reporters/editors/analysts/ethical gimmick spinners are planning on trying to persuade with just more 'look it's GW/AGW/climate change/next bad thing' without any more attention at who is trying to throw how much money at what without any more concern on enviROI practicalities then we're in for yet another dire decade of environmental 'journalism' indeed.

    And that is before what will 'grab' an audience takes pride of place at the next 'editorial' meeting.

    'Should responsible media spend fortunes flying to the four corners of the planet drumming up narrow topics that they'll simply drop by next week to move on to the next thing that pays their wages?'

    2010 is a year of voting. Mine goes to any entity that is honest, talks sense, adds up and inspires by example.

    'Since I'm not officially Ethical Man any more, I can fly' . Indeed. About sums it up. Also the value, and impact, of such 'experiments'. As invited, I'd judge about as successful as the one with the rocket scientists and the bottles.... not a lot.

    It's a critical situation and hence message, or rather vastly complex interacting sets. Sadly not being served with many messengers yet of competence, much less any credibility any more.

    What a waste.

  • Comment number 2.

    ps: Small tip from my Asia days - dress for the circumstances. A suit requires a/c more, commitment of power to exist in comfortably, so why do it?

    pps: Kool Pool. Excellent. A win-win, proactive, positive initiative whose impact and hopeful success bears investigation for a developing class of folk who are seeking comfort and convenience in their transport options.

    And a more immediate one, I suspect, than building a tube system that a) might not be as popular with the above folk even when completed and b) might well in its construction not do so much for GHG target measures in honestly reporting countries in the short term, even if the benefits might 'kick in' in the decades hence if/once it is finished.

    Trouble is, where does the money go now, to reduce GHGs now, as we are told is required? I'm guessing that, in developing economies, fewer folk expecting such options is less likely to find favour than worrying about the next low-carbon 'thing' to serve the demands of ever more voters.

    To the person who gets the balance right.. the spoils:

    http://www.xenafan.com/movies/ghostbusters/voters.wav

    Happy New Year.

  • Comment number 3.

    The only two examples I can think of seem to prove the point further.

    One is the Antarctic Treaty, which seems fairly selfless - but the stakes were fairly low and I'd imagine most countries' military lobbies rather liked the comfort of not having to squabble over the world's most inhospitable continent.

    The other is the 1951 Refugee Convention, which really is an exception that proves the rule. It was signed at a time when protecting refugees was (relatively) uncontroversial. Then, as soon as this became more of a political issue with more widespread and more destabilising wars and dictatorships creating ever increasing and ever more mobile numbers of refugees, governments immediately started to try to wriggle out of the treaty, exploiting loopholes such as what constitutes a 'social or political group' to reduce their duties, and very few countries in any way tried to adapt their systems to make the most of benefits that doing the right thing could bring. A handful of countries like Sweden profited by making highly skilled, highly motivated refugees part of their economy - most simply panicked and threw more money at their old, dysfunctional systems - not unlike the contrast between Denmark and other countries' approach to energy shortages.

    The golden question is, on any issue, how can you get short-contract politicians and system-focussed civil servants and diplomats to focus on long term consequences, rather than the easy short term gains that boost their personal careers?

    Performance related pensions, anyone? It's the best I can think of.

  • Comment number 4.

    "It is rare that nation states put aside national interests for the greater good of the world. Can you think of any examples of when they have?"

    Sure, just about any form of international travel, trade or communication is based on international agreements. To take a few examples, why is the language of aviation English? How are you able to phone someone in New York or Nadi? Why is the same passport valid in every country in the world? The list is virtually endless.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree that nation states will rarely if ever 'put aside national interests for the greater good of the world' and that this will inevitably have to change. We all live here together.

    I also agree that we need to think about and face up to the problems caused by cars/planes/etc. A re-think of our transportation needs is in order.

    But our decisions have to be based on reasoning and science we all can accept and which stands up to scrutiny. And whether you like it or not, a fair percentage of people...including many scientists... do not accept the reasoning and science behind 'climate change'. In fact, many (including me) suspect certain 'nation interests' to be behind the whole AGW thing in the first place. There's nothing 'ethical' about it and I suspect those pushing it aren't very concerned about our environment or our future. It's just another strategy for wealth and control.

    There's also nothing ethical about the BBC constantly harping on about AGW as though it's an undeniable fact, as implied in this article. Your obvious bias is shameful.

    Thank God Copenhagen failed.
    Now let's go figure out what we REALLY need to do to make our future fair and 'sustainable'.






  • Comment number 6.

    The reason any agreement on cutting carbon emissions is doomed to failure is that most of the world can spot a scam when they see one.

    Of course we should be 'greener', cut pollution, plants trees (a lot of trees) and look after the planet as best we can but the idea you can make billions out of 'trading carbon', suffocating developing economies and closing steel mills here is diabolically barmy - especially as all of the emission cuts will only have a miniscule effect on actual CO2 levels and/or climate change.

    If the climate guys cant predict a very severe winter they sure as heck cant predict global warming (now not happening it seems) - it's duff science and it has been shown to be so.

  • Comment number 7.

    "A prize to anyone who can come up with an international agreement that involved anything like the sacrifice represented by cutting fossil fuel use."

    Abolishing the slave trade. The 1926 Slavery Convention signed by the League of Nations committed 97 countries to abolishing the African slave trade. Granted, to capture the full extent of the sacrifice we need to take into account the UK's previously-established Slave Trade and Slavery Abolition Acts in 1807 and 1833 and the US's Emancipation Proclamation in 1864. But taken together, the 1926 Slavery Convention built on previous acts and accords (in the same way that Copenhagen should have built on Kyoto) to establish an international agreement to abolish a trade which the scholar Joe R. Feagin estimates had been worth between $2 trillion and $97 trillion in total. And, unlike cutting fossil fuels which supposedly would produce long-term benefits for all countries, abolishing slavery was a genuine sacrifice: Britain, the US, Europe and others did not "benefit" from abolishing the slave trade other than by ending a barbaric and unethical practice.

  • Comment number 8.

    Andy suggested:- "Abolishing the slave trade"

    Hmm, there are similarities and differences - the most critical point was that the political class believed that slavery was immoral. Perhaps only when the power of those arguments that a massive increase in CO2 gas in the atmosphere will have a devastating impact on the world climate and ecosystem, we won't have the political drive to find a solution.

    The second problem is that the fundamental of slavery abolition is simple, and equal to all parties. The problem as Ethical man put it is "The conference degenerated into the equivalent of a land-grab - not for territory on Earth, but for atmospheric space and the right to pollute it."

    As could have been predicted a long time ago, the West needs to maintain a higher carbon footprint per person to survive, and the only way to do this is to buy the rights from countries that use less. The slush fund was set in Coppenhagen at $100B per year, but this fails to really value the price of polution.

    A secondary problem that grows out of an idea of atmospheric space to pollute per person, is how population growth varies between countries. This is just as critical an issue but is even thornier to resolve than for the acceptable CO2 emissions. There are a range of other environmental and shared resource issues such as over fishing, exploitation of water sources and access ot trade routes.

    Personally I think that what Coppenhagen DID accomplish was quite profound given the innevitable fight for resources. Rather than talking about it as a disaster, why not talk about its successes - so many leaders attending and giving it importance, and the main principals agreed on.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    How about the Antarctic Treaty? that turned the Big Ice and surrounding waters into a giant science park instead of a free for all exploitation of anything and everything that could be grabbed? That put aside the various national territorial claims and let anyone put a science base anywhere they wanted.

    That looked pretty much like what you ask.

  • Comment number 11.

    Unfortunately government actions tend not to follow their speeches. How can a government that expresses committment to reducing CO2 emissions justify spending £400 million on subsidising people to scrap their old cars and buy new ones? Isn't the 'green' solution for those people to NOT replace their cars at all!

    Similarly, the 'solution' to coal- and oil-fired power will be nuclear power - a great way to make a dramatic reducion of carbon emissions (and honour treaty committments), but which will pass another set of problems on to future generations. In other words - yes, we do need SOME nuclear power but it should not be used as a silver bullet.

    Should Indians drive cars? - yes but, we (and they) should be using cars when we NEED them, not when we WANT them. So the solution is personal responsibility. Unfortunately there's not a lot of that around, so governments should tax car fuel sufficiently to discourage those unecessary journeys. They should use the tax on sustainable energy projects.

  • Comment number 12.

    As long as negotiations and decisions continue to be made by governments representing nationalistic interests - territorial, economic, political....or by corporations representing protectionism of shareholder profits, there will be no significant change on environmental policy anywhere. Unfortunately, these short-sighted people are leading us into an environmental disaster which will be unrecoverable by the time the world's power centers have their "aha" moment. We didn't screw it up overnight, and it will not be fixed overnight. I hope the human race can survive the hysteresis of the environmental system. I am not optimistic that we will do well.

  • Comment number 13.

    In terms of agreements that saved the world from utter destruction, I would add the series of Nuclear Non-proliferation Agreements, including the more recent renewal signed by US/Russia envoy.

    Although the national interests could be there (i.e. mutual withdrawal), I think the main focus of these agreements is to reduce the risk of the 'apocalypse' scenario.

    On paper, the three pillar of the agreement look great:
    -non proliferation
    -disarmament
    -peaceful use of nuclear energy.

    In reality however, we all know the story. Constant threats from North Korea, states like Iran abusing their rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy through defiance of international law and countries like Israel not even admitting to a secret arsenal of nuclear weapons.

    Even though it didn't work as perfectly as planned, I think the idea of reducing weaponry in order to 'save the world' is still there.

    The nuclear race, which undoubtedly, ended in almost complete annihilation of human race on several occasions (e.g. Bay of Pigs), had to be stopped not only the members of the race, but for the good of all.

    Through the creation of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement we, as a race, have been given a chance to back up and to think before we start playing with fire.

  • Comment number 14.

    What about India's over-population? What role does it play in India's carbon footprint. While the UK may have contributed tremendously to CO2 emissions during 1950 to 2000, India added nearly 600,000,000 people to the planet during that time. Even if all Indians don't buy cars, providing them with the basics like nutritious food, good education and healthcare will undoubtedly place a great pressure on the planet's environmental resources. Yet even those who are talking about global warming in India are not talking about the need for effective measures for population control.

  • Comment number 15.


    Actually there are many, many international treaties (and other forms of international law) by which states restrict their ability to pursue their "national interest", however defined.

    The most obvious examples are the many treaties in area of international human rights law where states commit to numerous binding obligations which limit their ability to pursue to their national interest. Take the example of the European Convention on Human Rights, it, for example, restricts the circumstances in which a state can detain or imprison persons- including foreigners- that the state perceives to be a threat to its national security. It also guarantees that all those accused of a crime- including crimes which threaten national securty such as terrorism- must receive a fair trial. What's more, all these obligations are backed up by enforcement mechanisms through which an individual can apply to the European Court to have their case heard.

    There are many other examples of international treaties where states have - in some very significant ways limited their ability to pursue their national interest, not because they get some kind of pay-off in return, but because in some cases it is simply seen as "the right thing to do".

    SO it is misleading to suggest that states always or invariably act in the selfish pursuit of their own national interest- THEY DON'T. The key thing to do is to PERSUADE those that need persuaded that more rigorous commitments on the environment is simply the right thing to do.



  • Comment number 16.

    Justin Rowlatt - you are really incorrigible. Your entire thoughts and actions revolve around the delusional belief that "Carbon" (meaning CO2 or carbon dioxide) is the root of all evil. Thus to be "ethical" is to avoid the production of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases I presume). You wander around clothed in this "Carbon" delusion. When pointed out that you are unclothed, quite naked in fact, you shiver not in the cold which is enveloping your country at the moment, but quite seriously discuss how others could be similarly dressed as you.

    Were you not suffering from this delusion you may have answered the question - Should Indians drive cars? with - probably they should but a little more carefully and they should get rid of smokey cars and gosh I must be really mad to be asking such a daft question in the first place.

  • Comment number 17.

    PS. For an example of a universal treaty which at the time it was agreed involved commitments by states which restricted their ability to pursue their national interest every bit as what would in a best case scenario have emerged from Copenhagen here are an example:

    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. This convention is every bit as binding as what was hoped for at Copenhagen and involved commitments which restricted the ability of states to pursue their national interest every bit as what would, in a best case scenario, have emerged from Copenhagen. Other examples include the four Geneva Conventions which restrict the ability of states to fight wars.

    Of course, all of this emerged after WWII. We'll have to hope we don't have to wait for a catastrophe on this scale for the international community to set aside self-interest for the common good in the area of the environment.

  • Comment number 18.

    'It is rare that nation states put aside national interests for the greater good of the world. Can you think of any examples of when they have?'

    The 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). Intended to protect the human environment against air pollution and to gradually reduce and prevent air pollution.
    This was a major negotiated international treaty on reducing the pollution which caused acid rain and is considered in the 'negotiation world' to be a good example of when nation states came together and agreed on something that was not strictly in their own economic interests.

  • Comment number 19.

    In a recent Guardian comment piece on the banking crisis an evidently American comment writer wrote that the bankers thought they were being patriotic. My initial reaction was well that's ok for Uncle Sam, but what about the rest of us, before I realised that he did not mean patriotic in the sense that it was in the interests of their country, the USA. He meant that the bankers thought that what they were doing was good, morally right, because in his thinking, which may be typically American, that which is good and that which is patriotic are one and the same. What is good for Uncle Sam is morally right, so there is no possible sense that the American way, what is in the interests of the USA, is not good for all. So the very use of language incorporates national self interest as the only acceptable goal for action.

    I am reminded of previous decades when under Nixon and Reagan there was a tendency to confuse undermining the presidency i.e. the office of president with questioning the ethics and morality of the conduct of specific presidents in office.

  • Comment number 20.

    Any agreement that is achieved will be meaningless unless each nations carbon emissions are independently monitored and even if they are what will be the penalty for a country not reducing the emissions by the amount they have signed up to?

    Lets be realistic, no government (apart from ours) is going to introduce measures which are detrimental to the wealth of their nation and it's people.

    The other problem with all this is that the majority of the population just don't believe the science that humans are causing climate change and that they even doubt that climate change is even happening and if it is happening it wouldn't have an affect on them.

    However if climate change is happening, and it is going to have the impact the scientists say it will, then we will surely find out as I can't see carbon emissions being reduced by any meaningful amount over the short to medium term.


  • Comment number 21.

    The problem with most of the international agreements that have been cited so far is that they are agreements in name alone. I think this is particularly the case with the Covenant on Social and Political Rights. Yes, every country is a member, yes, this means that they "agree" not to violate certain essential freedoms of their citizens. However, the world over we see examples of states, who agree in principle, debate and rhetoric with the Covenant, violating it on a regular basis.

    The Abolition on the Slave Trade is a good one, one that I'd missed myself.

    The key issue is sovereignty, if the state is the supreme entity in the international system, then its power goes unchecked, when that's the case, no international law can be truly enforced in the traditional sense of the word.

    In considering, some aspects of the rules of war, the ban on chemical warfare, the ban on bio-warfare, use of nuclear weapons, and the more recent land mine treaty are relatively well enforced, with exceptions being denounced and punished when they're found. Other laws are so rife with violations and exceptions, I'm not sure they'll function.

    So, what's the difference between climate change and nuclear weapons? Actually, not as big as you'd think, if framed the right way.

    Both are something a state would otherwise want to do- Be able to 'win' any war with the push of a button, reducing enemies to dust, or continue with a destructive path of human development.

    Both represent threats to both the entire planet and to the individual states- Nuclear winter or global climate change.

    Both are globally decried and recognized as threats to the world system.

    The trouble is in a couple key differences.

    Nuclear weapons have an immediate effect, whereas the effect of ghg is slow and much harder to spot.

    Nuclear weaponry carried the threat of MAD after a short period of time, meaning that use was suicidal.

    Now for the big ones:
    Nuclear weaponry was an on-off thing, either you used the weapons or didn't, there is no nuance. Climate change is all nuance, all subtlety, as Copenhagen proved. When you're asking for those kinds of subtle shifts, no one is going to come to an agreement, because there will always be someone who comes out with a slight edge at the end of the day.

    Nuclear weapons were the province of the few, meaning that 5 nations could make the choice never to use them again. In order to secure action on climate change, every nation (Barring a couple tiny ones, maybe, no offense Maldives) HAS to agree, HAS to make a change. That's not easy. On top of having to agree they have to agree to the same thing, not on slightly modified versions of the same thing, and that is crippling.

    The sacrifice of nuclear weaponry was a passive one. No nation was habituated to using them, no nation lost much by saying they wouldn't start. The sacrifice of climate change, though, is active, a nation has to take specific actions to reduce ghg emissions. It's an issue of asking a nation not to change rather than asking them to change.

  • Comment number 22.

    Firstly, climate is, by definition dynamic, and therefore constantly changing. Secondly, whats the point in stating the obvious, Justin? The majority of people are by definition protective of their own needs. To expect their governments to be anything else is flying in the face of reality. And how do we manage our own resources? with the same attitude, maybe something should be done; but others can do it first. We may think we are intelligent and logical beings, but when we are threatened, our animal instincts kick in, overriding rational thought. No, the catastrophy will have to be on us before we do anything, and then it will be too late!

  • Comment number 23.

    Why do we need international treaties and madcap carbon tradings systems ?

    What is wrong with unilateral action.

    eg. take emissions from a new family saloon in 2010 and stipulate that no car can be sold in in the UK in 2015 unless it has half that amount of emissions, half again in 2025 and half again in 2035.

    Domestic industry should equally be encouraged to cut pollution by clear stages.

    Imported goods should be taxed on the basis that they have large emissions/pollution in the production cycle, exemptions to the tax if you can prove the product is clean.

    The problem is that no-one wants to jump first as they believe it will harm their own domestic industry which is why the whole Copenhagen thing is viewed with suspicion by undeveloped countries, we are saying to them 'trust us' without first demonstrating our own commitment.

    If we stand up and do, rather than just say then others will follow.


    Slavery was abolished because one country stood up and said no, and made it difficult to trade unless others also joined up (it was a form of protectionism).

  • Comment number 24.

    This entire discussion is so peculiar.

    There are a number of national blocs that could singlehandedly contain the CO2 'crisis', one of which is the collection of traditionally English-speaking countries of the UK, Canada, US, Australia, and New Zealand. Others include Russia alone, the central Asian 'republics', or the countries of North Africa. If Japan were willing put a good portion it's underemployed, highly educated workforce to sea, it could become a 'Saudi Arabia' of renewable energy.

    There are two approaches, one based on land and one on the ocean. The land based approach is to build algae farms, which would simply be salt or freshwater channels hundreds of miles in length. These would have to be covered with a transparent lid, because a side emission of algae growth is methane. As the algae dies it settles to the bottom of the channel, and as the muck accumulates it sequesters carbon. The water would be pumped into the channels using wind turbines or solar power. One could periodically drain the channels and harvest the remmants for use as a feedstock for fuel production. This is where a lot of oil came from in the first place.

    The seaborne approach is to have either ships or offshore platforms with turbines designed to operate in particularly rough seas. These would not look like the tall thin blades on land based turbines, they would look more like aircraft turboprops or helicopter blades. These ships would sail into high wind areas to geneate 'cheap' power, using it to compress air to the point where CO2 solidifies. It would break up water using hydrolysis, and react the CO2 with the hydrogen to make hydrocarbons. This would be a rough living, but it couldn't be any worse that going into the Southern Ocean to hunt whales.

    If ocean covers 75% of the planet, then it makes sense to design our CO2 sequestration/renewable energy technology around that reality. Why is this different from having supertankers plying the waters between the Persian Gulf and the North Sea?

  • Comment number 25.

    'Overnight temperatures in the south of Scotland have reached their lowest level in more than 14 years' - BBC News 4 January 2010
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/south_of_scotland/8439259.stm

    'The authorities in Beijing have closed schools and mobilised thousands of people to help clear roads after the heaviest snowfall for nearly 60 years' - BBC News 4 January 2010
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8438871.stm

    'November was cooler than usual with a mean temperature of 20.5 degrees Celsius, 0.9 degrees below normal, the Hong Kong Observatory says. November 17 was the first cold day with daily minimum temperature of 12 degrees or below - the earliest winter since 1981’ - news.gov.hk Hong Kong’s Information Services Dept.
    http://news.gov.hk/en/category/environment/091202/html/091202en04004.htm

    ‘Weather patterns were more like those in the late 1970s, experts said, while Met Office figures released on Monday are expected to show that the country is experiencing the coldest winter for up to 25 years’ - Telegraph 02 Jan 2010
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/6921281/Britain-facing-one-of-the-coldest-winters-in-100-years-experts-predict.html

    Last month was the coldest December in almost 30 years according to readings taken at the Armagh Observatory. The mean temperature was 1.5C, the coldest average measurement since 1981 - BBC News 4 January 2010
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8438408.stm

    Perhaps the Man Made Global Warming alarmists are talking a load of old tosh.

    Do we need to crank up global CO2 emissions immediately before we all perish?

  • Comment number 26.

    Here is an international (ish) agreement of equal utter stupidity as AGW - and it is now its 10 year anniversary.

    We called it Y2K and spent billions on a disaster that never happened.

    The tech guys all told us we were doomed and took hefty fees to ensure we avoided catastrophe.

    Famously the Italians spent nothing on the Y2K problem and suffered not a jot.

    It was another global 'chicken little' moment - I know we are a long way down the road on this one but I do hope we come to our senses soon.

  • Comment number 27.

    Josh - 26 writes:

    "The tech guys all told us we were doomed and took hefty fees to ensure we avoided catastrophe."

    That was me... now happily retired on the loot. Thank you everyone!

  • Comment number 28.

    Bretton Woods Conference

  • Comment number 29.

    Justin, whilst i enjoy your ethical man series on newsnight, you never seem to mention the real elephant in the living room - Peak Oil or Peak energy.
    No need for me to go into Peak Oil facts as i am sure you are aware.

    It would seem the real clear and present danger to our future is not climate change in the near future but our dwindling energy resources and the negative EROI we are bumping up against. In my opinion this caused the global economic shutdown and not just excessive lending. Also, without monetary reform - kiss good bye to the planet.

  • Comment number 30.

    Meredith Poor

    ...not so poor then ;-)

  • Comment number 31.

    Ethical Man - where are your ethics in refusing to apologise for a blatantly misleading and false experiment that claimed to "prove" the science behind "global warming" to an uninformed audience in your kitchen?

    Where are your ethics in continuing to tout the "Anthropogenic Global Warming" fraud and scam, even as your country shivers with ever rising CO2?

    Just the sight of any snow in winter was something that was supposed to have been "a very rare AND EXCITING EVENT", according to CRU in 2000 and UK snowfall was in a "death spiral". (This is just one of their continuously false predictions since that date.) http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html

    Where are your ethics, when this "rare AND EXCITING EVENT" has caused pensioners to burn books to try stay warm, even as "evil gas" is in short supply and its prices skyrocket? http://www.metro.co.uk/news/807821-pensioners-burn-books-for-warmth
    http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/149760

    How long do you think their books will last and how many do you think will die, even as you patronizingly pontificate on whether Indians should drive cars, or what we should eat or how we should live?

    Where are your ethics in being absolutely certain about what is right for the world, without investing any effort in a serious search for truth, in a subject as complex and confounding as the CO2-global warming issue, about which some of the world's most knowledgeable scientists cannot agree, and which is ridden with hyperbole and fraud?

    Why dont you step down from your condescending, supercilious, moralising high-horse and apologise for having promoted and aided and abetted a position, that is at best mistaken, and at worst promoted lies and fraud? Aplogise for indulging in and feeding feel-good fantasies of fighting Global Warming? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppvmUl8I1c4

    Apologise ethical man. Be a man enough to do that.

    Or if you dont, at least explain why you feel you shouldnt apologise for posting a false and misleading experiment and misleading people over that, (if nothing else).

  • Comment number 32.

    Hello Justin,

    I did not find any other way to contact you so I am posting a comment here - there is a very important issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

    Many people question climate change and global warming by pointing at the cold weather and snow that 'happened' in the UK. I think it is important to explain and to talk more about this problem. I am surprised how many people are out there who think that just because we have cold weather now, there is no climate change at all.
    Would be nice (and I would say somewhat vital) to see something on this on Newsnight and possibly have a whole programme about it.
    Good luck.

  • Comment number 33.

    My response on Indians and cars is that the whole world can all drive cars if they are carbon neutral or even just low carbon.
    Bio-fuels, synthetic fuel or things like ethanol can achieve this because they are ultimately made from CO2. Even better are electric cars - what is really needed is a carbon neutral power system.
    Power generation is a physics problem and people should be looking at physics solutions - advanced nuclear technologies like fast breeder reactors, fusion, or even higher energy reactions. For instance relativistic physics offers routes to vast amounts of energy, a few 'devices' might potentially supply the energy needs of the whole world.

    There are plenty of other solutions too, maybe one of the best is advanced coal gasification which could use our vast coal resources without the old problems of pollution and CO2. Then there are renewables like solar or geothermal or hydro-electric. Even the worst solutions like big wind power or tidal barrages may have their place.

    On the other side cars can be made to last longer and be made more efficient by being kept light and small. So yes Indians can drive.

  • Comment number 34.

    I like you Mr. Rowlatt, I’ve followed your stint as Ethical Man on Newsnight and you come across as a thoroughly decent chap – gregarious, humorous, engaging, self-effacing when required and enthusiastic about your subject without being smug or browbeating your audience. Unfortunately, to me at least, you haven’t been convincing – particularly with your kitchen experiment.

    There are correspondents on your blog who seem better informed than me with regards to the science, so I won’t pretend to know more than I do, but reading their comments about the ‘un-scientific’ nature of your experiment made sense of my initial reaction when watching the piece and thinking how unsophisticated it all seemed.

    No-one, even sceptics, can deny that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but surely, the concentration of such, I think it’s referred to as the PPM , is the crucial factor, and there was nothing scientific, or accurate, about the experiment with the bottles – what was the PPM inside the bottle that warmed quicker?

    And as for your ‘assorted’ members of the general public, I suspect a bit of ‘agenda suiting mischief making’ by the BBC there – their compliance in such a short space of time was almost laughable – they put me in mind of the crowd in the Messiah scene in Life of Brian, even your ‘expert’ seemed more concerned about distancing himself from the e-mails sent out from the university in Norwich than proving the theory - possibly worried about losing his funding? It’s interesting to see that the BBC is now being asked questions about its impartiality with regards to this politically controversial issue.

    Overall, the experiment was more Blue Peter than Newsnight, and I felt quite insulted afterwards. For the record, I’m all for recycling and conserving energy, I think most people are, but I am sceptical about the level of mans contribution to global warming - I’m not convinced it’s anywhere near the levels we’re being told by climate change fascists and in particular, politicians, who, as individuals, have had to go along with it whether they’re convinced or not. I want to hear more from the countless eminent scientists who, it seems, are being ignored to suit a wider political agenda.

    I started off by saying how I liked you, but for all the holes that have been picked in your experiment, you’ve yet to respond, so come on Justin, put us in our place, if you believe in your argument, you need to come up with something more substantial. Let’s see your experiment, and more complex experiments carried out under strict laboratory conditions, with experts from all sides of the argument and a proper debate afterwards. This is after all, so we are told, one of the biggest challenges we face, so I think we deserve a bit more than your kitchen, and as nice as your kitchen is, it’s not a laboratory!

    P.S. Sorry for being a bit off-topic, and discussing something that happened almost a month ago, but I've only just found my laptop after wading through the 'Tsunami of tat' bestowed on my offspring by their extended family!

  • Comment number 35.

    Interesting that NHJ says – ‘Many people question climate change and global warming by pointing at the cold weather and snow that 'happened' in the UK. I think it is important to explain and to talk more about this problem. I am surprised how many people are out there who think that just because we have cold weather now, there is no climate change at all.’

    But it is not the UK alone that has been disrupted by snow and freezing conditions generally.

    Other European countries have experienced the same -
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8443252.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8445613.stm
    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/01/07/europe.weather.severe.winter/

    Asia too:
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKSGE6060G720100107
    http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/01/05/2010010500271.html
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/04/record-snow-china-south-korea

    And the States:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=9499391
    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/storms/winter/2010-01-04-cold-snow-continues_N.htm
    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2010/January/Midwest-Gets-More-Snow-South-Faces-Arctic-Grip/

    Generally:
    http://itn.co.uk/9be5ad34d597bf7aaa1e6a2e01140a7b.html

    Secondly, it is important, too, to recognise that this is not just a little chill in the air, a dusting of frost and a sprinkling of snow. It is some of the coldest weather around the globe for decades, and it is causing major problems.

    What is remarkable is that rather than admitting this extremely cold weather is at odds with the idea of global warming, the warming alarmists assert it does not buck the trend.

    But, even if available data has been interpreted correctly that the trend has indeed been a slight warming, how can the current weather but buck the trend? It is colder, not warmer. That can only affect the trend.

    Thirdly, contrary to what we are often told by warming alarmists, climate IS weather. The Oxford Dictionary definition of climate is ‘the general weather conditions in area over a long period.’

    So when we find ourselves in the grip of some the severest cold weather for decades, we may quite reasonably and logically deduce that the idea that the planet’s climate (long term weather) is warming up could be highly questionable.

    A little less patronising condescension and a little more intellectual honesty from the alarmists would be much appreciated and could provide a much better platform for debate. A platform, we are repeatedly told, which no longer exists.

    The casual dismissal of the recently leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia school of environmental sciences is but one example of trying to tell us to ignore the plain evidence.

    Another grand example is Stephen Dorling, of the University of East Anglia's school of environmental sciences, quoted in both the Express and The Independent as asserting the weather should not be used as evidence against climate change. Which, bearing in mind that climate is long term weather, is about as absurd a comment as one could possibly imagine.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/no-conflict-between-big-freeze-and-climate-change-1858530.html

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/149966/Snow-chaos-And-they-still-claim-it-s-global-warming

    Rather than trying to persuade us to ignore the obvious, perhaps Newsnight would be better served to explain how the Global Warming alarmists have managed to so drastically skew UK media coverage of the climate issue to the point that prominent Government figures now feel secure enough to publicly deride anyone who disagrees with them as ‘saboteurs’ and ‘flat-Earthers’.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/matthewd_ancona/6845870/Copenhagen-was-the-MPs-expenses-scandal-writ-large.html

    Now THAT would make an interesting story. But then perhaps the BBC might not be in the best position to impartially investigate that particular propaganda push.

    Fourthly, let me point out that it is not just the cold weather that leads people to question the alarmist propaganda but also the history of disingenuousness, bullying and lack of transparency that has accompanied the media rise of the alarmist agenda.

    In conclusion, permit me to point out how ridiculous it is to criticize people for pointing to the weather in order to draw conclusions about climate, which, as I said, is long term weather.

    ‘Many people question climate change and global warming by pointing at the cold weather’ because the cold weather doesn’t look much like indicating warmer long term weather.

    Another couple of interesting articles to conclude:
    http://www.wnewsj.com/main.asp?SectionID=42&SubSectionID=201&ArticleID=181342
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/geraldwarner/100021526/climate-science-is-an-oxymoron-time-for-zero-tolerance-of-green-agendas/

  • Comment number 36.

    Frank 2010 -

    The Arctic is literally melting. We have unexpected, extreme weather, that is unusual for certain climates. I am not very old, but can remember that for some reason the seasons do not seem to be very stable. [I realize that human life is not always a measure of things compared to the big scale of development in nature, however, there is factual evidence that 'something' is happening, whether you want to call it global warming or the other magic word, that is irrelevant.]

    I understand your scepticism but I think sometimes it would be wise to listen to 'the other side' as well - even just for fun.

    I think climate is more than 'long term weather'. I think the point is that from what we have seen so far it looks like there won't be much of what we could call 'weather' in the future. The disruption and instability of precipitation, temperature etc. will not manifest itself in an observable manner that we could structure rationally.
    This may or may not happen in our lifetime (say +50 yrs) but everything points to the fact that there won't be anything to be called weather.

  • Comment number 37.

    NHJ wrote: "..Many people question climate change and global warming by pointing at the cold weather and snow that 'happened' in the UK. ..I am surprised how many people are out there who think that just because we have cold weather now, there is no climate change at all."

    NHJ - please clear your head, think clearly and do some reading. "Climate Change" has always happened in Earth's 4.5 billion year history. Climate is always changing, but, like the separation of the continents of America and Europe and Africa, happens at a pace slower than the human life-span. Thus when we watch a certain phenomenon like the melting of glaciers for 50 years and jump to the conclusion its due to man-made CO2, it ain't necessarily so. Glaciers have been receding in fits and starts since the "little ice-age" 300 years ago.

    Temperatures have also gone up and down in the past, quite without the aid of humans. There was a period called the Phanerozoic which covers a period from now to about 550 million years ago. During this time CO2 in the atmosphere has been between 2,000 and 5,000 ppm. That is about 12 times the amount today.

    During the times of high CO2, abundant animal life existed, both on the land and in the sea. (Alarmists new alarm finding - Ocean acidification, if true they should have killed off all sea life in those millions of years). And during this time of high CO2 there have been a few ice-ages too.

    "Climate Change" is also the pseudonym adopted by the alarmists to camouflage its real name "Anthropogenic Global Warming" or Global Warming for short. So lets address by its real name and not the pseudonym which was adopted for the very purpose to confuse and deceive.

    "THE ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING THEORY", is the hypothesis that the very small percentage of CO2 we are putting into our atmosphere will cause our planet to warm dangerously.

    The fact is that the Earth has not warmed for the past 12 years, while CO2 has increased by 6% in our atmosphere. This fact is not controversial. It is obtained from the temperature data from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at Hadley. However this fact was not forecast by any of the climate models used to predict Global Warming.

    The warmist alarmists say that this is just a temporary lull and the warming will renew with renewed vigour from this year. (Forecast to be the warmest ever since temperature records began).

    Well lets see. In the meantime you freeze and pensioners die in large numbers in Europe and America, while western governments and dupes like you and ethical man call for action now to halt "global warming". The "action" being to halt the production of energy, the very lifeblood that runs our farms and factories, cities, homes and vehicles.

    The very lifeblood which is keeping you alive at the moment and killing the poor in your country who don't have it.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi again, NHJ.
    Re your comment 36 in reply to my comment 35 –

    Well, actually I do ‘listen to the other side’ as well. Quite apart from the fact that it has been impossible to avoid persistent alarmist reports across the UK media in the last ten years, I have read a little about the issues in order to improve my understanding of them from various sources with differing view points. My conclusion thus far is that Global Warming alarmism is unfounded opportunism.

    For instance, even you state as an alarming fact what is actually a point of contention, being the significance of melting of Arctic ice.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/15/goddard_arctic_ice_mystery/

    http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2007/09/09/reports-record-arctic-ice-melt-disgracefully-ignore-history

    Even if fluctuations in ice mass occur it does not necessarily mean it is caused by or contributing to some perceived escalation in global warming, and nor does it necessarily mean that catastrophe is just around the corner.

    And ‘unexpected, extreme weather’ is a consistent characteristic over time of... the weather. Unexpected and extreme weather regularly occurs somewhere; always has done and always will.

    And I’m sorry, but your statement ‘I am not very old, but can remember that for some reason the seasons do not seem to be very stable’ is not strong enough evidence to convince me climactic catastrophe is just around the corner. Neither is your assertion that ‘there is factual evidence that 'something' is happening’.

    And although you might think climate is more than long term weather, as I pointed out previously, long term weather is exactly what the dictionary calls 'climate'.

    I repeat, from the Oxford Dictionary – ‘Climate: the general weather conditions in an area over a long period.’

    I appreciate developing your own peculiar definitions of words can be useful in trying to obscure the obvious and obfuscate what is plain, but I suggest that if you refuse to even acknowledge the meaning of the word ‘climate’ then you are an unlikely to be seen as a source of credible comment on it. But you are far from alone.

    The remainder of your post is precisely the kind of unfounded, alarmist ranting that has pervaded much of the media for the past decade -

    ‘it looks like there won't be much of what we could call 'weather' in the future. The disruption and instability of precipitation, temperature etc. will not manifest itself in an observable manner that we could structure rationally.

    'This may or may not happen in our lifetime (say +50 yrs) but everything points to the fact that there won't be anything to be called weather.’

    Sorry if puts too fine a point on it, but to speak plainly without wishing personal offence, this is simply tosh. Not only does ‘everything’ not point to your dismal catastrophic prediction, but it can be reasonably argued that really not even very much would indicate any such awful prospect.

    Perhaps, with respect, it is you yourself who might benefit from reading about other views which do not reflect the currently prevalent media driven hysteria.

    What I find to be the real problem is that it is the Global Warming agenda today which fails to ‘manifest itself in an observable manner that we could structure rationally’.

  • Comment number 39.

    Here we have the BBC's David Shukman desperately pushing "global warming"...

    "The weather will get colder as the climate gets warmer"

    Yawn....

  • Comment number 40.

    39. At 1:55pm on 08 Jan 2010, Jack Hughes

    David Shukman reports on how one of the longest cold snaps for a generation, fits in with theories of a warming planet and global climate change.

    I wonder how long a cold 'snap' needs to extend before it outlasts the credibility of that temporal description?

    And as we are on matters of time, history, archives etc, I am guessing the use of generation here equates to the 'not in 30 years' I see and hear much of elsewhere, usually after someone has said it's all 'unprecedented' - http://www.answers.com/topic/unprecedented - bar the last time, one presumes.

    The tonality of this also worries me, especially in light of the trust I have that what I am served is always to the highest level of scientific accuracy and/or watertight oversight.

    A 'report' that 'shows' how something 'fits in' with a certain set of certainly consistent narratives (if based on often wildly variable, if not on occasion contradictory factual bases) is unsurprising to be sure, but hardly reassuring any more.

  • Comment number 41.

    Has anyone noticed that in the past two weeks, while we all freeze, that there has hardly been any mention of "Global Warming". On any news chanel anywhere!
    Good thing too. The next person or persons to suggest "global warming" should be made to shovell snow from John 'O' Groats to Lands End. !

  • Comment number 42.

    David Shukman reports on how one of the longest cold snaps for a generation, fits in with theories of a warming planet and global climate change.

    That is another BLATANT LIE being touted! Unfortunately it doesn't fit in very well at all with theories of a warming planet and global climate change.

    1. From the BBC weather centre itself:
    ..Climate researchers predict that the UK climate will become warmer, with high temperatures in the summer becoming more frequent and very cold winters more rare. Winters will become wetter with heavier rain more common
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/climate/impact/human_health.shtml

    2. The IPCC report, which is the Bible of the warmist-alarmists, says nothing about predictions of severe winter weather. Nothing, Zero, Nada, Zilch!

    On the other hand what it does say about snow predictions:

    "21st century regional changes

    Snow cover area is projected to contract.

    Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century..
    Over most land areas, warmer and fewer cold days and nights, warmer and more frequent hot days and nights. Likelihood of future trends ..: VIRTUALLY CERTAIN"!

    And the facts? Snow cover for the Northern Hemisphere in December 2009 was the 2nd highest in the 44 years since the records started, 2.66 million Km2 more than the average.
    http://climate.rutgers.edu/snowcover/table_rankings.php?ui_set=1

    And I dont think you are having the VIRTUALLY CERTAIN fewer cold days and nights promised in the 21st century!

  • Comment number 43.

    In March 2000 The Independent reported in an article entitled 'Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past' that Dr. David Viner senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, as saying -

    'However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

    "Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.'

    (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html%29

    But I think kids have got the general idea now.

  • Comment number 44.

    Sorry. I didn't quite state that right about the quote. For the sake of accuracy let me try again.

    In March 2000 The Independent reported in an article entitled 'Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past' Dr. David Viner senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, commenting that within a few years children will not know what snow is -

    'However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

    "Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.'

    (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html%29

    But I think kids have got the general idea now.

  • Comment number 45.

    Further to mentioning the article 'Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past' (The Independent March 2000) which quoted Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the CRU at the University of East Anglia, asserting that within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event... Children just aren't going to know what snow is", I decided to look back over the years since he made that comment in 2000, for convenience limiting myself just to the UK.

    I discovered that it snowed in the UK in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and early 2009!

    So then, since that senior research scientist at the CRU made his prediction in 2000 that within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event... Children just aren't going to know what snow is" it has snowed in the UK every year!

    2001
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/arctic-conditions-return-with-heavy-snow-warnings-626456.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1231221.stm

    2002
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1864170.stm

    http://www.richardjwild.co.uk/blog/2002/02/

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2002/february.html

    2003
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2708283.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2627777.stm


    2004
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2004/december.html

    http://www.aidan.co.uk/photo6648.htm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/mid/tours/slideshows/pages/snow_scenes.shtml

    2005
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2005/dec/27/weather.climatechange1

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southwest/sites/inpictures/pages/snow_05.shtml

    http://prints.paphotos.com/pictures_683647/weather-snow.html

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/education/teens/casestudy_bodmin.html

    2006
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/content/image_galleries/snow_feb06_gallery.shtml

    http://www.goatman.me.uk/snow/

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/mid/sites/in_pictures/pages/snow2_march06.shtml

    2007
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6293511.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6338151.stm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/content/image_galleries/christmas_snow_gallery.shtml

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/feb/08/schools.uk2

    2008
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/weather/gallery/2008/jan/03/1

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/07/weather.transport

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7743805.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7332986.stm

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1081135/One-dead-thousands-power-October-snow-London-74-YEARS-Arctic-blast-sweeps-UK.html

    Early 2009
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/feb/02/snow-london-travel-chaos

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2009/pr20090202.html

    2009/2010
    Well, I think we know.

    I find myself wondering who funds the CRU? Are we the tax payers contributing to this academic catastrophe?

  • Comment number 46.

    Maybe it's all just the wrong kind of snow?

  • Comment number 47.

    I believe change has to come from the individual and spread upwards, not be imposed by government downwards. One very simple way each individual can change their mindset is to ask themselves this: if every person on the planet did the things I do (as every person on the planet is perfectly entitled to), could the planet sustain that activity?

    In the case of eating a healthy and varied diet, that answer is probably yes. In the case of flying to New York for a holiday, the answer is probably no. In the case of having four children, the answer is almost definitely no.

    In all cases, you can then decide whether you think you should partake in that activity and act accordingly. But it has to be a decision taken on an individual, voluntary basis, and not forced on you by anyone.

  • Comment number 48.

    start_of_an_era wrote:.. could the planet sustain that activity? ..In the case of having four children, the answer is almost definitely no.

    I see. Well then what would you say to the average Nigerian family of 8 or Bin Laden having 55 siblings and 29 children? Should they limit themselves or should we have no children at all to accomodate them?

    James wrote: ..The next person or persons to suggest "global warming" should be made to shovell snow from John 'O' Groats to Lands End.!

    Dunno where those places are, but seems like an awful lot of shovelling.

    Actually the snow does not "disprove" Global Warming. But then Global Warming is not a scientific theory because it is not falsifiable. But the snow does two things. It sows a healthy scepticism in the public mind about the claims of Global Warming and it shows up very clearly the dangers of Global Cooling.

    The biggest myth about Global Warming is that Global Warming will be very harmful. During the century that the Earth has warmed by about 0.6C food production has increased to feed a 4 fold increase in population. But one little cold snap and thousands of vulnerable people die and crops and animals die. The lesson - Cold is harmful not warmth.

  • Comment number 49.

    "A prize to anyone who can come up with an international agreement that involved anything like the sacrifice represented by cutting fossil fuel use."

    The international treaty obligations that drew the U.K. into the Great War! We needn't have participated at all.

  • Comment number 50.

    To compare cutting fossil fuel use to WWWI is quite funny. What you mean is that driving slightly smaller more fuel efficient cars and using more public transport is equivalent to the deaths of half the young men in Europe? Ha Ha very funny.

    Cutting out fossil fuels is only a minor hardship and will benefit everyone in the long run. The climate deniers might be gloating at the moment but this science works statistically over long periods and this is no more than a blip. They are like the man who thinks he's invented an invisibility cloak by putting a paper bag over his head, after all if he cant see you then you can't possibly see him can you?

  • Comment number 51.

    50. At 00:14am on 12 Jan 2010, Robert Lucien wrote: Cutting out fossil fuels is only a minor hardship and will benefit everyone in the long run. The climate deniers might be gloating at the moment but this science works statistically over long periods and this is no more than a blip...

    "No more than a blip"? I see Robert Lucien. And what gives you the confidence that "this", is a "blip"? (And what is "this" by the way? Is it the current snow and cold, or is the statistical temperature trend line, which has been flat for the last 12 years, and sloping downwards for the last 8?)

    How did you work out that cutting out fossil fuels would be "only a minor hardship", given that fossil fuels produce 87% of the World's energy? (Compared to less than 1% by Geothermal, wind, and solar energy).

    Do you accept the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory, or Global Warming for short, as a matter of faith or do you have other reasons also to believe it?

  • Comment number 52.

    "How did you work out that cutting out fossil fuels would be "only a minor hardship", given that fossil fuels produce 87% of the World's energy? (Compared to less than 1% by Geothermal, wind, and solar energy).

    Stern's modelling indicates that significantly reducing ghg emissions can be achieved at a cost of less than 5% of GDP. This is arguably a blip in the long term considering world economic growth averages above 2.5% per annum.

    "Do you accept the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory, or Global Warming for short, as a matter of faith or do you have other reasons also to believe it?"

    It is perfectly rational to accept climate change/global warming arguments as it is backed by the majority of the scientific community.

    Wouldn't it be irrational to not trust in the consensus view? This should be especially true if you are not a scientist or have any interest in actually undertaking reseach in this field.

    As for an example of "..an international agreement that involved anything like the sacrifice represented by cutting fossil fuel use."

    I would like to hear if anyone disagrees with the example of the sacrifices nations made as a consequence of the Bretton Woods conference.

  • Comment number 53.

    At 10:42pm on 12 Jan 2010, J wrote:
    "How did you work out that cutting out fossil fuels would be "only a minor hardship", given that fossil fuels produce 87% of the World's energy? (Compared to less than 1% by Geothermal, wind, and solar energy).

    Stern's modelling indicates that significantly reducing ghg emissions can be achieved at a cost of less than 5% of GDP. This is arguably a blip in the long term considering world economic growth averages above 2.5% per annum.


    How typical of the response to refer back to a 700 page report, that the average Joe will never read or make sense of, full of assumptions, any one of which can be widely out, to completely discount its conclusion, as a definitive proof of that the cost of reducing GHG emissions will be a mere blip on the world economy.

    In the meantime the country that is adding 2 coal power plants per week, China, has shown a 8% growth, overtaken Germany as the World's foremost exporter, and is flush with cash. The US and Europe, on the other hand, have taken huge steps to TRY and mitigate GHG emissions. Have failed, but in the process are bankrupt. In the US, the state that is foremost in tackling "Climate Change" aka Global Warming, California, is the most bankrupt of the lot, and Spain, the foremost exponent of alternate energy, is bankrupt. Both of these examples as a direct result of their Green policies.

    Please show the pensioner in your country who is dying for the lack of gas to heat his home, the Stern report. I'm sure he or she is bound to take much comfort in it.

    "Do you accept the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory, or Global Warming for short, as a matter of faith or do you have other reasons also to believe it?"

    It is perfectly rational to accept climate change/global warming arguments as it is backed by the majority of the scientific community.

    Wouldn't it be irrational to not trust in the consensus view? This should be especially true if you are not a scientist or have any interest in actually undertaking reseach in this field.


    No one doesnt have to undertake research in the field, or be a climate scientist, to make an intelligent assessment of something that one can see is leading to economic armageddon.

    One doesnt have to take a bunch of people on trust, who have failed to forecast that the world hasnt warmed for the last 12 years. Who have got many forecasts wrong, such as hurricanes or sea rise, yet want to tax us on the basis of some awful things they allege will happen a century from now.

    It is alleged that The Global Warming Hypothesis (as distinct from the Globe having warmed slightly over the last century), is not a scam, that it is not a fraud, based on fraudulent data and manipulation. But at least "Carbon Trading", is apparently riddled with fraud Carbon trading fraud “up to 90% of the whole market volume was caused by fraudulent activities”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/11/eu-carbon-trading-carousel-fraud

  • Comment number 54.

    Post 53, Richard - Well said! Very interesting comment.

    Post 39, Jack Hughes - yeah saw it, Terrible. As other BBC 'It's only
    weather, so obviously catastrophe' items.

    James post 41 - yeah, noticed BBC MMGW items are somewhat selective in their timing. P.S. for the 'John 'O' Groats to Lands End' challenge: I also have a shovel that can be borrowed if anyone needs it! : )

  • Comment number 55.

    Richard: "I see. Well then what would you say to the average Nigerian family of 8 or Bin Laden having 55 siblings and 29 children? Should they limit themselves or should we have no children at all to accomodate them?"

    I wouldn't say anything to them, and I certainly wouldn't force anyone, either here or in Nigeria not to have children. I was just sharing a way of looking at things that I personally find very useful (and effective), but I would not impose it on anyone.

  • Comment number 56.

    I'd say that the scientific consensus on GW is pretty strong. Of course the scientific community is sometimes wrong and in the end its all no more than an educated guess - after all this is about trying to predict the future.
    If we act and the CC/GW argument is wrong we will have wasted a lot of effort but we will have improved technology in ways that are needed anyway. However if we continue as we are and GW continues / happens we could be facing cataclysum in 50-100 years.
    There are several real dangers in climate change, perhaps the biggest is the undermining of climate stability. Even an ice age might be not impossible, after all in the long term climate one is already due. In the scientific literature though there are many indications that global warming is happening, av global temperatures are higher, sea levels are rising and the polar caps are melting. CO2 has been rising for at least the last 60 or 70 years and ice cores say that its higher now than its been for some 100,000 years, etc, etc. The thing most people dont understand is about critical points, given the right conditions complex systems can jump from one stable state to another and there may be no way back.

    In a way the argument about natural verses human caused climate change is irrelevant - if the science is correct its probably already to late to do anything about it anyway. What we should be doing is preparing to deal with the consequences of climate change. Its an old rule but we have a much better chance of survival if we plan for the worst as well as the best.

  • Comment number 57.

    Coal and oil run the show. It is not about regulating or taxing fossil fuels, it is about finding a viable alternative and allowing it to come to market over the political might and objections of coal and oil. Politics is a messy and corrupt process and nothing gets done simply because it is the right thing to do.

  • Comment number 58.

    Just wait for mass production of India's Tata Nano (the 1500 pound or the 2500 dollar car), Everyone who buys an high end two wheeler will now be able to afford a Nano. That will leave even less space on the roads. Most roads in India are already congested .. soon they will be clogged.

  • Comment number 59.

    57. At 2:35pm on 14 Jan 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote: Coal and oil run the show. It is not about regulating or taxing fossil fuels, it is about finding a viable alternative and allowing it to come to market over the political might and objections of coal and oil. Politics is a messy and corrupt process and nothing gets done simply because it is the right thing to do.

    Coal and Oil "run the show" because they are the cheapest forms of energy at the moment. About "allowing" a viable alternative to come to the market, if the alternative was "viable", meaning cheaper, it would come to the market and displace coal and oil.

    Right now they are "coming onto the market" by taxing coal and oil and subsidizing the alternatives like solar and wind. Subsidising a losing business means you tell the business, hey it doesnt matter you are losing money, we will pay you for all your losses. They pay them by taxing you and me or by printing money. At the same time you tell its competitive business you are making a profit, we will fine you so much that your goods will cost more than the losing business's goods and hence they will sell and not you.

    What happens is the price of the goods becomes more expensive and the losing business goes out of business anyway because it was not viable and a lot of people lose money, chiefly you and me. This is precisely what is happening. Solar power generation is going out of business and power shortages are resulting in California and eventually in the US.

    China and India who are not operating by such ideologies as Europe and America are surging ahead. It is ironic because precisely ideology over market was what kept China back in the first place. Now the roles are reversed.

  • Comment number 60.

    http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/56518?utm_source=tec_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

    Maybe it'll be OK if they are all electric?

    Though Richard does present a thoughtful case on enviROI to possibly temper Ed. and Peter M's enthusiasms.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    57. At 2:35pm on 14 Jan 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote: Coal and oil run the show. It is not about regulating or taxing fossil fuels, it is about finding a viable alternative and allowing it to come to market over the political might and objections of coal and oil.

    In Spain political might elbowed out coal and oil and artificially introduced Solar and Wind power by the use of subsidies for Solar and Wind power and taxes for coal and oil.

    The result Spain went rapidly bankrupt and now - "Spanish unemployment hits four million - The Spanish government said that 125,000 people registered as unemployed last month, taking the jobless total to around 17.5 per cent of the working population." http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10623871

    However they are very ethical - "fighting climate change".

  • Comment number 63.

    There is no doubt that India and China form about 1/3rd of the entire global population, and if they all start driving cars it will spell a disaster for the environment. Right now the car market of India is sizzling hot, every year more car models are released there than anywhere else in the western world. But India does not have the Infrastructure to support so many vehicles .. Period!

    Go to any big city in India and people are already finding it difficult to commute during rush hours. Car is also a prestige issue for many Indians, who feel that having a nice car can be used to show-off their relatives how well they are doing.

    In my recent trip to New Delhi, I found that it was more convenient, fast to use public transport like Metro, Auto's and other forms of transport than driving the car itself, although the travel conditions were no where compared to western world.

    Good post.
    ~AR~

  • Comment number 64.

    Oh Boy! just go to Youtube and Google for "India traffic" and you will come across with some amazing video's. Hardly anyone follows rules and it seems traffic cops can be easily bribed too if you are at all caught breaking laws. Honestly, even if there are just 20% more vehicles on the road, it seems there will be a permanent deadlock. :D

 

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